– Reported by The Express Tribune
GILGIT: Transporters in Gilgit and Kohistan announced a strike against the convoy system on Karakoram Highway (KKH) on Tuesday. The strike means public transport between Gilgit-Baltistan and the rest of the country will be cut off, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.
“Our strike is against the convoy system and poor security on KKH,” said Bilal Khan, a transporter, referring to the introduction of the movement of buses and vans in convoys. The move came as a security measure by authorities in G-B and Kohistan following repeated attacks on buses in 2012 when selected passengers were made to disembark and shot dead.
Since then, buses and vans are made to move in fleets, with a police escort, on KKH from Diamer Valley till Besham in Shangla.
“This is the worst form of security as it exposes passengers to terrorists,” said an official of the G-B and Kohistan transport association. They added it is inconvenient for passengers as buses are stopped on various spots between Diamer and Besham, making the 600-kilometre long journey even more troublesome.
“Before this system was introduced, a bus would reach Rawalpindi from Gilgit in 15 hours, but now the same journey takes more than 22 hours,” said Muzaffar, a driver.
A statement issued from the G-B and Kohistan transporters associations asked people to avoid using KKH as buses would not be allowed on the thoroughfare till their demands are accepted by the government.
“The convoy system was devised in consultation with Kohistan’s administration for the security of passengers,” an official in Gilgit toldThe Express Tribune, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media on behalf of the government. “Now that reservations have been expressed, the system might be reviewed by the higher authorities.